Donation aims to boost Rocky student research

2013-12-17T14:38:00Z 2013-12-17T22:38:38Z Donation aims to boost Rocky student researchBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A financial gift to Rocky Mountain College will act as seed money for student research in math and science.

A “sizable gift” was made by John Jurist, a Billings biophysicist and adjunct professor in the college’s Physics Department, said Phil Jensen, associate academic vice president at RMC.

Jurist asked that the amount not be publicly disclosed. Jensen said, though, that it will allow many students to get involved in research through the newly created Science Education Enhancement and Development (SEED) program.

“We’re very excited and very thankful for his generosity,” he said.

Jensen said the acronym SEED is fitting in more than one way. First, the money will fund initial research that will generate preliminary results and bolster the researchers’ ability to seek additional external grants.

Second, the hope is that Jurist’s contribution will spur others to make donations to encourage undergraduate research in the sciences.

“Even a modest gift may enable an otherwise unfunded student to seize a genuine research opportunity,” Jensen said.

Grants will be available for student research in mathematics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, physics and computer science.

The competitive grants will be open to faculty who apply and prove the project’s scientific merit and educational value for students.

“The program aims to ensure that undergraduate researchers are at the center of the research experience, as opposed to more traditional models nationwide where students often merely help faculty members,” Jensen said.

A panel of seven will scrutinize the proposals.

They include five faculty members in the sciences, Jurist and David Orser, former chief financial officer and former board member for the college. Applications are due Jan. 10 and the panel will make decisions by early March.

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